WASHINGTON - A US State Department spokesman on Wednesday sidestepped a question about Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani’s legitimacy following his court conviction, saying the matter was being addressed in a “legitimate and democratic” manner.

“I think we’ve been very clear that we view this as an internal domestic issue but one that is falling on a clear democratic track, that it’s progressing within the Pakistani judicial system and that it’s being addressed in a legitimate and democratic fashion by the Pakistani judicial system,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters at the daily briefing. He was responding to a question as why the US was silent over PM Gilani’s refusal to step down after his conviction by the Supreme Court.

“We don’t have any real comment on what is a domestic political issue,” Toner said.

But when the questioner persisted, citing the Constitution repeatedly, the spokesman added, “I’m not an expert on the Pakistani constitution.

All that I can say is this case has moved forward through the Pakistani judicial system in a way we view as consistent with Pakistan’s democratic values and in a transparent manner.”